How to Hem Coat Sleeves, from the Archives

I have had this post in draft for a while. Altering suit coat sleeves is not difficult if you know a few tricks. It does take a bit of time, but it is very worthwhile. You can expect to spend one to two hours working on this project.
You will need a few basic supplies such as good quality matching thread, a sewing machine (straight stitch only, don’t panic), an iron, a press cloth or dish towel, tailors chalk, a ruler, scissors, and a roll of fusible interfacing approximately 1″ wide. I use a product called Stitch Witchery. It’s very inexpensive and you can find it in the sewing department at Walmart or Joanne Fabrics.
The best advice I ever received on alterations, was to only work on one sleeve at a time. Don’t be tempted to take them both apart, you may not remember exactly how it went together and you will loose that professional look.
Fit your jacket sleeve length, mark with a pin, and measure how much needs to be hemmed. FYI, the sleeve should touch the top of your hand when your arms relaxed hanging down at your sides.
Remove the stitches that hold the lining to the sleeve. If your jacket has buttons on the cuff you will have to remove those as well. In addition, the lining may be tacked in a few other places, cut the tacks and roll the lining up the sleeve about half way.
If your jacket is vented at the cuff, remove all stitches holding the vent in place. The goal is to open the existing hem and flatten the vent. If there is interfacing in the cuff, you may be able to leave it in place and will not need to add more interfacing.
Now for the tricky part: measure how much your hem needs to be shortened and mark with tailor’s chalk. The basic rule of thumb is if you are shortening the sleeve more than 2″, you will have to sew the vent closed. No one will know that the jacket used to have a vent. Overall, this is the easiest process. It is far more complicated to keep the vent. Trust me, you won’t even miss it.
On my jacket, I also used the ruler and chalk to mark the cutting line. Cut away the excess vent fabric. You want the seam allowance edges to be even all the way to the end of the sleeve.
After trimming away the fabric, sew the vent closed using a straight stitch, and catching the interfacing to hold it in place in the side seam. If you need to add interfacing to the hem of your sleeve, do that before sewing the side seam shut. Keep the interfacing parallel to the raw edge of the sleeve. It should be centered over the fold of the cuff for a crisp finish like in the photo below.
Time to trim the excess fabric from the hem. I had to shorten my sleeves 3″. I removed 3″ off the raw edge. Mark with ruler and chalk, then cut.
Mark and cut the same amount from the sleeve lining.
Press the fabric slightly to make it easier to hem. Be sure and use a press cloth if your jacket is wool. Also, do not press your suit coat sleeve completely flat, it will look rather funny when wearing it. You may choose to use a rolled up towel in the sleeve to avoid creases, or use a sleeve roll if you have one.
Fold the hem in place. Using the other sleeve as a guide, re-measure sleeve allowance and pin the lining in place over the raw edge of the sleeve. Try the jacket on and make any necessary adjustments before completing.
Hang in there we are almost done! Time to slip stitch the lining to the hem. Using a needle and thread, pick up only a thread or two of the wool sleeve and then the same amount of the lining. If you are not much for hand sewing, remember the lining won’t show. If you pick up more of the lining fabric at first it’s okay. Just be sure your stitches are not visible on the outside of the sleeve.
The finished hem.
Time to refer back to the original sleeve for button placement. Sew the buttons on the finished sleeve in the same position as the original. A light pressing, and you are done! Time to start all over with the other sleeve!
That wasn’t so bad, now was it? You can do this!
Best of luck on your sewing project!

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